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March 2005

Egyptian Pharaoh Had Copper Plumbing

High-resolution version of this photo.

The ancient Egyptians were advanced in many fields including astronomy, construction and irrigation. They were also some of the earliest coppersmiths and made copper vessels, tools and the pipes used for their irrigation systems. It should come as no surprise that they were advanced in matters of indoor plumbing, as well.

In 1994, archeologists excavating the remains of a 4,500-year-old Egyptian funerary pyramid complex unearthed a sophisticated copper drainage system.

Located in Abusir in Northern Egypt, the pyramid is believed to be the oldest of many pyramids found in this region, which is just south of the Nile River. It served as the final resting place of King Sahure, the second King of Egypt's 5th Dynasty, who ruled from 2517 to 2505 B.C.

Ancient Egyptians believed the dead enjoyed the same earthly delights as the living, so they built elaborate temples alongside the pyramids where royalty were entombed after they died.

Copper pipe was found inside the temple closest to the pyramid - which is called the "mortuary" temple. Here priests assembled daily to present food and other objects as offerings to the dead king's spirit.

Only the finest materials were used to build the temple, which consisted of an elaborate entrance hall, courtyard and sanctuary made with white limestone ceilings, alabaster floors and red granite columns. Magnificent relief paintings of the king hunting, fishing and trampling his enemies covered the inside walls, while multiple statues of the king were displayed inside the sanctuary.

Experts speculate that the copper pipes, which extended some 330-yards along a causeway leading to another temple, were used to drain well water that was hand-carried into the temple to bathe the king's statues. These statues were anointed with oil as part of daily purification rituals.

Although the overall condition of the pyramid and temples today is poor, the copper piping has survived, attesting to the longevity of copper plumbing. Cu


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